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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Harris official arrested in probe

By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser City Hall Writer

As part of an investigation into Mayor Jeremy Harris' political campaigns, Community Services Director Mike Amii was arrested yesterday on suspicion of felony theft related to alleged campaign work he did for Harris on city time.

Mike Amii was a tireless campaigner for Mayor Jeremy Harris.

Photo courtesy News 8

Deputy City Prosecutor Randal Lee said Amii was arrested "based on our investigation of campaign work being done on city time." Lee declined to provide the dollar amount of the alleged theft and when the campaign work occurred. Second-degree theft covers amounts of more than $300.

Amii, 56, of Haha'ione Valley, turned himself in at Honolulu Police Department headquarters on Beretania Street at 11:30 a.m. yesterday, and was released 30 minutes later without being formally charged.

Harris said he was "stunned" by the allegations, and described Amii as "a man of integrity who has dedicated his life to public service. He works 50 to 60 hours per week for his community and is a devoted father and family man."

He added, "I have full confidence that he will be cleared of all allegations."

City spokeswoman Carol Costa said Amii put in for a week's vacation after being processed at the police station.

Other city officials said Amii had been at work earlier, attending meetings and conducting business as usual before lunch.

Amii was not available for comment.

Harris, who had been the Democratic front-runner for governor, surprised everyone by dropping out of the race in May. He and his campaign organization had spent much of their time battling allegations in court related to his campaign and its fund raising.

For months, prosecutors have been subpoenaing financial records and other documents from Harris' campaign committee and from the state Campaign Spending Commission, which turned its investigation over to prosecutors and has fined several donors for making excess contributions to Harris.

Harris campaign attorney William McCorriston said yesterday he was "disappointed and chagrined" by Amii's arrest.

An appointed city official, Amii has worked for the city since 1995. He was a deputy director until January 2001, when Harris promoted him to head the Department of Community Services, which oversees human services, housing, urban renewal and community development programs.

He has a reputation as a tireless campaigner and organizer. In 1997, Gov. Ben Cayetano expressed surprise that Harris had hired Amii, who had worked for various state agencies since the 1970s. The governor said he had fired Amii because "he didn't do anything but politics."

Amii has been a prominent member of the Harris campaign. When the mayor and his wife traveled to Washington, D.C., for a Democratic National Committee fund-raiser after he won re-election in the fall of 2000, Amii was one of two aides who accompanied them. The Harris campaign covered the group's $5,600 in travel expenses.

Amii's wife, Jan Amii, also was appointed by Harris to serve on the Honolulu Board of Water Supply.

McCorriston, who said he has known Amii personally for years, said he understood from Amii that the basis of the charges explained to him by police related to allegations of "campaigning at two events on city time without taking vacation or leave."

He said police declined to provide details but that the charges might stem from actions during the 2000 Harris campaign.

McCorriston described Amii as a city employee who gives back unused vacation time each year. "If anybody owes anything, the city owes Mike Amii for many free hours that he gives to the city every day, every week, every year," McCorriston said.

Lee said a second racketeering charge refers to "(using) an enterprise to commit a criminal activity," in this case using a city office for non-city business.

Former City Councilwoman Rene Mansho is serving time in state prison after pleading guilty to requiring her staff to do non-city work on city time.

Lee helped to prosecute that case with the help of police Maj. Dan Hanagami, who arrested Amii yesterday.

Lee said it would be inappropriate to comment until formal charges have been lodged, which could take weeks. White-collar crime takes time to investigate because of the number of documents that need to be reviewed, Lee said.

"We're trying to move as quickly as possible," he said.

He declined to say whether other officials would be arrested in coming weeks or days. "The investigation in these matters will continue," he said.

Reach Robbie Dingeman at rdingeman@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8070.